On Wednesday evening, I heard that there was going to be a rally in support of the people of Baltimore, in Union Square park in New York City. I decided to go over and see what was happening, and found the scene above. For those of you who don't know what happened, a young African-American Baltimore man named Freddie Gray died while in police custody, the latest of several of these tragic events to happen in American cities in recent months. As of now, there are several conflicting reports about what exactly happened. (Read an overview HERE.) There have been protests and riots in Baltimore, resulting in a 10 pm city-wide curfew for the past three nights. The demonstration in Union Square was in support of the people in Baltimore, and also calling for an end to what seems to be an unending storyline of these kinds of incidents.
There were many people holding up signs of all kinds: Freddie Gray Matters! STOP Police Brutality! End the School to Prison Pipeline! Black Lives Matter! and more. The park was getting crowded, and we were penned in by the barricades the police had set up around the park perimeter. They also lined up around the perimeter, watching the proceedings with mostly stoic faces. Different people, such as the woman above, got up on a small platform and spoke passionately about the need for a change. The crowd chanted and yelled out, and moved out across 17th Street to 6th Avenue.
People marched along 17th Street, heading west toward 6th Avenue. They were yelling, cheering, and chanting slogans as they walked. Police lined the sides of the street, standing almost at attention.
I was in the midst of wall-to-wall people, walking about half-way to Fifth Avenue, when I felt the push. Rows of police with riot helmets were pushing the crowd in the opposite direction, back towards the park. There was some struggle a few feet ahead of me, I couldn't see exactly what was happening but there were people pushing back with their hands up as the police pushed forward. I jumped out of the street, down into a basement cubby entrance to a restaurant, and kept drawing. There was a loudspeaker giving warning: "This is the New York City Police Department. Please be advised, if you walk on the street or roadway, you may be charged with disorderly conduct and be placed under arrest." Many people cleared the street, but many did not.
Police arrest and carry out protesters from the street.
Pretty soon the police had divided the demonstrators into different areas, some back in the park, others on 17th Street sidewalks, still others further down on 18th Street. They came out in full force, and they cleared the streets and sidewalks, forming a triangle at the northwest end of Union Square.
Soon the park was quiet again. There was, thankfully, no riot in New York City. But hopefully, the voices calling for change in our society were heard. This problem starts long before a young African-American man and a white police officer exchange eye contact. And this will keep happening, as long as we all continue to look away.
See more drawings on my blog HERE. Posted by Veronica Lawlor.